Monday, 12 November 2012

Calcutta Revisited

Calcutta may have changed the way it is called today, but essentially Calcutta has not really managed to shrug off its time weathered facade, the dusty layer beneath which lies some of the finest manifestation of art, culture, literature and human values. 

Give me my vintage Calcutta any day over the shiny and pompous that is being displayed and glorified in name of Calcutta makeover! Here are some of the images from Calcutta that I clicked in 2011. Some of these would sound dated!. Nonetheless.

Sunil Gangopadhyay staring from the billboard exhorting Calcuttans to cook their food in Emami brand oil. The omnipresent Ambassador Taxis are literally coloring the town in Yellow. Didn't see any Black and Yellow Taxi though. 
Shaheed Minar Lal Salam! Or is it going to be painted Blue now that there is change of guard at the Wrtiters. The governments may come and go but the Minar stands tall and mocks at the pettiness of the politicians
Flury's. Aaah Tea at Flury's brought back the old college days. We would bunk morning class at Xaviers, knowing well that Father Joris will not be too far!

The majestic Metropolitan Building near Metro Cinema. For me this is the finest building in Calcutta.. am sure many eyebrows will be raised at my preference. This once housed the American Library which provided much needed respite from the scorching summer heat and dust of Calcutta, that too gratis. One could browse, watch Videos or simply laze around there. Anadi Cabin is just across the road for those freaky Moghlai Porota!

Dada may be out of the Indian and IPL team but Dada still rules Calcutta. He stares from numerous hoardings, his Sourav on MIddleton Row attracts his fans for gourmet food.

   Tipu Sultan  Mosque at Dharamtolla Street.
   The Building with Thousand Windows near Raj Bhawan gate stands tall and still attracts
   admirers. This is a quirky building worth a dekho.
    Bhaanr! Only the Calcuttans can understand the meaning of sipping hot milky tea from
  these lovely mud cups. These bhaanrs still command monopoly though the bio non-
  degradable plastic cups have started appearing in tea stalls.

Victoria Memorial. What can one say about the old lady. She has given shelter under its tress to so many budding love stories and breakups. She can actually write a tome on Love

 The Old beauty hurtling down Dharamtollah street.

The Great Eastern Hotel, at one time this was the best hotel in this part of the world. Now in shambles, but awaiting its turn to shine as gloriously as in the past. The hotel will soon be back with new management and complete renovation. But will those grand Durbar Halls survive renovation.

Dharamtolla Crossing. Many of us have non-erasable memories of waiting over for our beloved here before devouring Rosogollas, sandesh , mishti doi at K C Das or Chittoda's kobiraji and cutlet on Dacres Lane.

Howrah Bridge was always a lifeline for Calcutta more so in those days before the new and shiny Vidyasagar Setu came up on the Hooghly. But the romance of shiny Howrah bridge will remain forever. Those boat rides down the Hooghly in the summer afternoon and those stolen moments with the loved one behind the curtains on the nauko 'boat' will always remain  special.

The Roadside Chaiwallah. Look out for the ketli and the Bhaanr. Tea drinking at such stalls will always remain an experience.

 The Calcutta Traffic Police constable. You can't miss him on the noisy Calcutta roads which tests their patience at all hours.
     Yello Taxis and the bare-chested cricketers peeking from the hoardings are a common sight today
 The Rickshawwallah. One of the several uniqueness of Calcutta.Many would say this is inhuman to ride a rickshaw pulled by a human, but i guess they have to feed themselves as well as their family somewhere in obscure village in Bihar. I quite liked my short ride down Mirza Ghalib Street on a March afternoon. The clink of bell was magic!

Fairlie Place Railway Building reminds me of those long hours standing in ques to book railway tickets or palming off the tout for a place in front of the long queue. Those days are gone for many of us. Now we book rail tickets at the click of the mouse. Hey wait.. Do we really travel by train any more?

    Chowringhee Square - Aren't the signage of Chowringhee Hotel and East India Arms Co as dated as the building itself!

Anadi's Cabin. The place to go for Mughlai Parotha is still doing roaring business. I wish they could open on Sundays too!

Baba Khadak Singh Marg Flower Market - An obituary

It is 4' O Clock in the morning. While the Delhiwallas are fast asleep , a certain set of people in Delhi are preparing to start their day well before the first sun rays hit the rooftops of Delhi buildings. These are no ordinary people. They are the Flower sellers of Delhi or should I say NCR! They are the phoolwallahs who deliver those lovely Lilies, carnations, roses, gladioli, the birds of heaven, narcisus , jasmine, mogra, lotus, orchids in several hues and many other flowers that a lay man like me is not knowledgeable enough to recognize. These flowers adorn our rooms, form bouquets for our loved ones, shape heavy garlands that is exchanged during 'varmala' in Indian weddings. The flowers for that vase in the hotel lobby or the one which is tucked in the hairdo of Indian woman, or the bouquet which a lovelorn sends to his muse. 

The marigolds or 'genda phool, now made famous by the song in film 'Delhi 6' - this humble Indian flower is most commonly used during pooja (idol worship) by the Hindus. This market also delivers the white tube roses - Rajnigandhi which emanates heady fresh fragrance. But this is also the preferred flower which forms a wreath!

Rows of stalls line up on the opposite road to Hanuman Mandir stretching from the Coffee House right upto Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts buildings. It is a riot of colors, smells which is extremely rejuvenating for the weary soul and senses of the city dwellers.

I had to digress, because the flowers are such that it needs more attention than the sellers. All these men and some women from different parts of the city and suburbs head towards the grand old CP or Connaught Place to sell and buy fresh cut flowers. This is the market which provides flowers to the city of Delhi and NCR. This colorful and unique morning bazaar starts at the early hours say around 5 and wraps up by 9 am. In the semi darkness of the wee hours, the tempos, trucks and carts laden with fresh flowers from nearby areas as well as other cities assemble for the morning bazaar. Soon brisk transaction starts, deals are stuck after vociferous haggling and animated bargaining goes in right till the last bud has changed hands.

This market not only caters to the flowers shops but also individuals. I picked up few bunches of Lilies, orchids and birds of heaven for a steal - at half the price that one pays for the same flowers at Khan Market or Ferns & Petals. So if you are adventurous and can forgo few hours of extra sleep on a lazy Sunday morning, and only if you love flowers, then shrug off the early morning blues, drive down or rather cycle down to the old CP savor the early morning Flower Raga, pick up that lovely bunch of Lilies, carnations or rose and wake up your muse with the fresh bunch of flowers. That surely would be remembered as one of the most romantic mornings by your beau!. After all, in the age of 'Home Delivery' and 'online order' how many of us actually bring flowers for our loved ones!

Alas! the municipal corporation of Delhi thought this market to be unauthorized and a nuisance, hence decided to shift this landmark to an obscure Ghazipur in the outskirts of East Delhi in 2011. Only a morbid Indian bureaucracy could think of this unthinkable!. The world governments encourage such markets to encourage tourism. But not in India!